Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Communist Past: Recollections of a Recent Experience

By Olivia Maria Hărşan

There are many things about Romania in terms of its socio-economic and political stance that I have been questioning for a number of years now. But it was not until June this year that I started to gain answers. I opted to travel to Romania for a variety of reasons but I will keep the list short. The last time I paid a visit to my native land was ten years ago and I remember feeling a heaviness about the people and their deprived surroundings, especially in the capital of București. 

This was oddly contrasted to the positive optimism manifested throughout the Transilvanian cities and towns of Brașov, Sighișoara and Cluj. I wanted to see if I felt the same feeling on this trip especially after writing on Romanian cinema and culture and it seems I was right. I guess it did not help that we experienced a downpour of rain during our entire stay in București and that we constantly stumbled across abandoned lots subjected to garbage overflow and abandoned dogs skirting the exterior facades of decrepit buildings. 

 Capitol summer cinema

 Memorial of Rebirth dedicated to those fallen 
during the Romanian Revolution of 1989

 "The People's House" or Ceaușescu's Communist Palace

There were many cues associated to Romania's communist history which seemed to clash with the country's desire to move entirely into the present, somewhat parallel to the West. I spoke to a few Romanians who had never left the country, let alone seen the capital. It was as if the paranoia and fear of the communist era had remained engrained within them. Others had been to Canada and the States only to return to Romania as they found things to be "better" in their homeland. 

Being an immigrant is hard and quite a challenge. You have to mold your old identity in with the new one and adapt to the unknown. I remember how hard it was for my parents to settle in Melbourne back in 1991. We were poor but my parents worked extremely hard to make a life for themselves and it was worth it. Strange though, when I go back to Romania, people still ask me why my parents left, "isn't it good here in Romania" they ask. Instead of trying to imagine the sacrifices my family made to build a better life for themselves and remembering the turmoil of the early 1990's they ask why we turned our back on our identity.

If anything we are celebrating our identity in the most unique way by combining our Romanian culture with our adopted Australian one. We speak an amalgamation of Romanian and English and we eat Sarmale followed by Pavlova for Christmas. We are embracing the best of both worlds.